Coke, girls and cameras!

Twice a year, Frome Wessex Camera Club hold a camera and photographic fair at The Cheese and Grain in Frome. Twice a year I miss it. In fact I must have missed it about 14 times by now, but I was determined to take a look this time.

Frome Wessex Camera Fair a table of Nikon cameras

Classics from Nikon and Leica to tempt the collector

I’ll confess I expected to find The Cheese and Grain stuffed to the gunwales with old guys in multi-pocketed photographers’ vests nerding over Leica MIIIs and Summicron lenses, or Nikkorflexollamas or whatever. Let’s just say, the gunwales were stuffed, the men were numerous and old and there was the buzz of nerding in the air. I even spotted one or two men wearing multi-pocketed vests, but they may have been anglers who’d wandered in by mistake.

To be fair, my age, gender and nerding tendencies mean I was in excellent company. I took the precaution of bringing my son who was going to have “none of that”. He stayed close and pulled me back from the abyss whenever my eyes glazed at the sight of a classic rangefinder camera. A tough task for any 12-year-old boy, but he did a super job and a coke in the cafe soon revived his superpowers.

Camera fair at The Cheese and Grain, Frome

Dive in, geek out and have fun

Brian Sawyer and Bill Collett try out a camera and lens

Bill Collett of Priston (right) tries his new lens on a camera Brian Sawyer of Melksham considers buying.

The fair itself is a broad mixture of ancient oddities (by which I mean the cameras, not the visitors… mostly) and present-day technology, but the emphasis is geared more to collectibles than modern equipment. I did speak to one chap who’d just acquired a very current and expensive lens at an excellent price. I was a little jealous, I must admit, but my son detected an evil glint in my eye and tugged my arm as he saw me starting to follow the man with the lens. It could have turned nasty.

There were one or two actual women there too and they didn’t appear to be there under duress. They were enjoying the fair too, and I spoke to a young woman from New Zealand who was there to enquire about adapting older lenses to fit her modern digital camera. She was impressed with the level of knowledge available from stallholders and seemed to be having a great time. She hadn’t come all the way from New Zealand just for the fair, but it would be nice to pretend she had.

For me the fair was an opportunity to find something fun to write about this week and to test a (nerd alert) Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L USM MKII lens which I’m reviewing for Wex Photographic. I know you’ll all be dying to read that review when it’s published, so I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s up.

Vicky Long studies a 500mm mirror lens

Vicky Long came all the way from New Zealand just for the fair! (I’d like to think)

The next fair is in November and I’ll probably pop along if my son will be my nerdguard. It might require two cokes next time.

Make these pictures move!

Now that camera manufacturers build video capability into their professional camera bodies, the question many photographers are asking themselves is, “why am I so hung over?” Shortly after that they ask themselves if they should be getting into this video malarkey by getting an SLR with a HD video doohickey built in.

It might be helpful to look at why camera makers did this in the first place. Or it might not, but it’s what I’m going to do anyway.

I have heard that the driving force for HD-capable stills cameras was originally the press agencies who wanted their staff to be able to shoot short video clips at news events to offer in addition to stills. I’m not entirely convinced by this, since shooting stills and video simultaneously is rather like juggling turds. It’s all going to get rather messy at some point.

My gut feeling is that the manufacturers decided they needed a new selling point for their equipment, which in every other regard has become about as sophisticated as it’s possible to get short of including a particle accelerator.

Hadron colliders being rather bulky (for now), video was the obvious choice, but they needed a valid reason to go to all the trouble, so suggested it might be a “good thing” to the picture agencies who probably said something along the lines of “knock yourselves out” – a ringing endorsement indeed.

And so it came to pass that Canon, Nikon, and probably some others which nobody bothers to buy much, built video into their pro cameras and said “Lo! for we have given the world of photojournalism the ability to multitask.” Marvellous.

portrait of rebecca adlington

Good luck shooting uprights on video.

But, this wasn’t the real reason for glueing a cine camera to a box brownie. The reality is camera manufacturers want these technologies to trickle down from the higher-end cameras to the consumer range in order that consumers, faced with the annoying fact that newer cameras can do something their poxy stills-only brick can’t, will upgrade to the newest, video-enabled model and consign their ancient, 9-month-old camera to Ebay or landfill.

Going back to the original question for professionals though, should you jump or be pushed into video, my advice is this: Bear in mind that within a few short months, every SLR will have HD video capability to some degree, and what might seem like a business advantage now (shooting high quality, cheap videos for smaller business clients) will quickly evaporate as the World and his spotty nephew equip themselves to do video just like the pro’s. Just like stills, the results will be mostly horrid and useless, but it’ll impress the boss that he can get video for “free” even if it costs him sales (he won’t notice that unless people start telling him how horrid his nephew’s efforts are, but nobody will tell him so he’ll never know).

In the meantime, being professional and understanding what’s required to achieve pro quality, you will spend thousands of Pounds on hardware and software to make video viable; you will spend weeks learning about panning, focus, lighting and sound, then converting, editing and encoding it all, only to find the prize is always just out of reach, and that clients will always want it much cheaper than it costs to produce. All this at the same time as discovering that in the commercial and weddings world, there’s already an army of well-equipped experts already doing what you hope to do. You’ll be trapped between Uncle Arthur with his video-capable Canon 60D (or whatever) shooting for free, and the seasoned video expert who has the technique, workflow and pricing honed to perfection.

Personally, I’d rather wait for the built-in CERN feature.